Enough with the suspensions, travel pictures and other off-field issues — here’s what you need to know for Navy football’s season-opening clash with rival Notre Dame:
When and where: Saturday, 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern), Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
TV: CBS (U.S. broadcast), ESPN America (Europe and other international rights), American Forces Network. More details in second item here.
Gambling is illegal in most states (but not in Ireland): Notre Dame is a 16-point favorite.
Option assessment: Junior Trey Miller has one career start — a 56-14 thrashing at the hands of the Irish last season. With his top receivers lost to suspension or injury, Miller’s magic will need to come on the ground as part of the triple-option attack. With the Irish keying on returning starter Gee Gee Greene at slotback, Miller’s best option for much of the day may be to keep the ball himself. Last year, he kept it 19 times against the Irish and totaled 59 yards. If that average doesn’t improve, expect a similar overall result.
Sophomore superstar?: Despite his inexperience, Miller’s the veteran quarterback in this one — Notre Dame redshirt sophomore Everett Golson has never taken a varsity snap. An all-everything high school player in South Carolina (151 touchdowns as a prepster — that’ll win you some homecoming king votes), Irish fans are understandably high on their new starter. Good news for Golson: He’s got a senior-laden line averaging 300-plus pounds to protect him. Bad news: He’s without suspended running back Cierre Wood, meaning one of his top pass-catching threats, senior Theo Riddick, becomes more rusher than receiver. Riddick had eight carries all of last year.
Dealing with speed: Trading Wood for Riddick didn’t cost the Irish any when it comes to quickness. Notre Dame’s offense will have fast-moving tricolor spikes all over the place, and it’ll be up to Navy defensive standouts Tra’ves Bush and Matt Warrick — returning seniors, leading tacklers in 2011 — to track them down. Expect Warrick’s coverage skills to be tested from his inside linebacker spot, while Bush, the team’s rover, will have to live up to the position’s name, leading the Navy pursuit. If Notre Dame opens things up with three or more wideouts, Navy’s inexperienced secondary could face a test, especially backup freshman cornerbacks Shelley White and Kwazel Bertrand.
Other angles: The Washington Post on Navy’s young offensive line. The Associated Press on the Irish and the rivalry. ESPN.com on why it won’t be close, they say. And a writer for SportsNews Ireland named Colin Bartley (of course he’s named Colin Bartley) views college football through an Irish lens.